You’re a Writer. Now Act Like One!

September 6, 2013 | By | 62 Replies More

My entire life had been in a single large city.  I loved the important hustle of the daytime and the somewhat dangerous excitement of the night. Art and fabulous food fed my deeper cravings. Still, I always felt that my forever life was waiting for me somewhere drastically different.  On impulse, I moved to San Diego, California. I had never been to San Diego. Nor did I know a soul living there.

M.M. Finck

M.M. Finck

It was darkly lonely at first. By the end, I’d met my best friend, learned how to surf and sunbathe without burning my Irish skin, bought a car by myself, hauled a television equal to my weight up a spiral staircase, and discovered sushi.  I did return to my home city, but not before this:

On a solitary, uphill walk one morning I came upon a beautiful stucco church having service. I slipped in just after the gospel.  At that point in my life, I didn’t recognize the writer within me, but what that pastor said in his sermon is a central part of how I carry myself as a writer and why the people who support me were compelled to do so.

The gist of the pastor’s sermon was, “Go through the motions, and I promise you faith will find its way in.” In essence, Fake it ‘til you make it.

How many of you wrote your first story in secret? Me too. Didn’t even tell close friends? How many of you gave any answer but “writer” when people asked you what you did?  My plan was to succeed in private, and then when I was a real writer I would tell people. Didn’t work out. How’d it work out for you?

When I received my first big rejection, it came as a surprise. She loved me, I loved her. She felt passionately about my story. But in the end, it wasn’t enough. I didn’t have a large enough platform to merit taking me on in addition to her full client load.

I’d kept my secret too well.  By not wanting anyone know to know I was a real writer, I wasn’t.  I wanted to disappear into my head and cradle my crushed, private dreams.

But that was not how to get what I really wanted, and I wanted it really badly. 

So I started faking it. The real MM is shy and private. The real writer MM is comfortable and confident. When I felt the smallest, I made myself go big. As big as possible. I told everyone. I shared my work. I joined writers’ groups. Stopped keeping to myself at events.

Wrote “writer” in the space after Occupation.  Added an email signature with my genre and links.  I reached out to people in the industry and potential readers.

Feeling like a writer begins with presenting ourselves that way. Not that it’s an easy thing to do. I flailed at my first hundred attempts to answer “writer” at corporate cocktail parties and on football sidelines. Awkward. Silence. Beam me up, Scotty.

Use my pain for your glory. This is what I’ve figured out.

Be positive. – Insecurity is not a great sale pitch. It yields pity instead. The people who ask you about your career are at the crossroads of being your followers or helpful colleagues…or not.

Give them something to be happy for you about. – It doesn’t take a lot. You read that there is a real market for what you write. You went to a great conference. You’re making great friends with other writers. Your blog has attracted a greater number of views than you ever expected. It’s not like you have to give them your stats. Maybe you expected 15. Someone big requested your full manuscript. No offer yet, but lots of interest.  You’re knocking on the door. The paper chose your title to review.

Have something in the future to share too. – You’re about to take a workshop you’re excited about. You’re going to a writers conference next month and the line-up looks fantastic. Your agent is going to have lunch with an editor from William Morrow. You’re going to speak to a book club or guest blog.

We follow this rhythm in regular conversation, but our regular ease gives way to our writerly fear when our profession is the focus. This is a skill to learn, because the situation does not go away. We face it when we are aspiring and never stop facing it. The line simply moves – the reputation of who signed us, advances, contract terms, distribution, sales, awards, etc.

It’s a magic formula. The better I got at “faking it,” the more people wanted to help me succeed. The facts of my career had not changed.  I was the same person. My writing was not suddenly better. But when I heard my own voice frame the state of my career this way, I saw myself differently too. Like faith into that pastor’s followers, recognition found its way into me. Not only did my audience believe I was a real writer, I felt like one too.

A line from my novel Forget We Met is “Doneness smells different.” Tabitha, a chef, pulls bread out of the oven before the timer beeps. She can sense that it’s ready. So can editors, agents, readers. You are real. Act it. Feel it. Be it.

It also works for surfing and hauling televisions.

MM Finck is an American author whose novel Forget We Met is currently under consideration at multiple agencies. She treasures personal connections with, well, anyone. When she’s not writing with the internet shutdown, you can find her on , on twitter @MMFinck or blogging at

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Category: Being a Writer, Contemporary Women Writers, Growing Your Platform, How To and Tips, How to Get Published, On Writing, Women Writers, Women Writing Fiction

Comments (62)

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  1. Wonderful post, and so true about the need to stand up for your inner writer by letting her out! I’ve also found that to be the case–the people who are dismissive are very much outweighed by the people who will reach out to you with help and encouragement when they find out that you’re a writer. You can’t find your tribe if you’re hiding your true self. 🙂

    • MM Finck says:

      “You can’t find your tribe if you’re hiding your true self.” Truer words have never been spoken! I completely agree. 🙂 Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I’m so glad you enjoyed the article.

  2. Caroline de Lange says:

    Fabulous article! I never thought of myself as a writer but have some life experiences that I have always wanted to write about. Life has had us move countries twice and motherhood has happened in that space as well, so somehow writing was always pushed to the recesses of my mind until recently a friend strongly encouraged me to take on a writing course and a whole new world has opened up. I love it but have been hesitant to call myself a writer, I have seen it as simply exploring a hobby at best. The more I share my work (with personal friends), the more positive feedback I receive, the more I think I can do it, yet I have been far too nervous to put myself out there! I have wanted to start a blog for ages – you have inspired me to ‘just do it’! Thanks for that 🙂

    • MM Finck says:

      You are more than welcome! Thank *you* for sharing. Testing the waters with your story is essential. And, with friends, fun! They know you can do it. I know you can do it. No one else can. Your story is yours alone. Best of luck! Have fun, have faith! 🙂 Thanks so much for taking the time to read my article and then, yay, to comment. That’s my fun.

  3. So loved this article. If you don’t believe you are a writer how can you expect anyone else to believe it! My profile as a writer has increased dramatically since I began embracing the electronic highway. I have always told people I am a writer with a day job. I certainly never put the day job aged of my writing career. Loved the wholeessage MM. Well done for showing how important it is to get yourself out there. Because if you don’t’, who will,?

    • MM Finck says:

      “Writer with a day job”? You’re ahead of the curve, Jilly! I’m so glad you liked my post. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!


      PS Have you seen the film Practical Magic with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock? I mention the movie not the book because I’m not sure if this is in the book: Nicole Kidman’s character is named Jillian. Her sister’s nickname for her is Jilly. I’ve always loved that. 🙂

  4. Such good advice! I’m on the board of a fairly large writers’ group, and new members are always reluctant to call themselves writers because they “haven’t been published yet.” I like to tell them “if you are writing, you are a writer.” Owning it is the first step. You make a good point that if you hide it, you won’t have the platform you need even if you find a publisher. Well done, and congrats to you on your success. Thanks for sharing your story and for encouraging the rest of us.

  5. Cris says:

    I’m so glad to have read this. I’ve written three novels in relative secret. I haven’t published though, so when I do tell someone about my work they tend to treat me like a hobbyist. This makes me want to hide more. Lately I’ve been trying to take small steps toward putting myself out there (writing for friends blogs) but it’s still terrifying. This post reminded me that I’m not alone and to keep pushing. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • MM Finck says:

      Three books? Cris, that is huge. You are a real writer. Whether or not you are a hobbyist is up to you, not anyone else. I admire hobbyist writers very much. To do something solely because you feel called to it? How pure. To my mind, if you are pursuing publishing, you are a professional. Are you interested in being published – traditionally or otherwise? I just wrote an article on querying that might be perfect for you. The editor of WWWB told me last night that it will be posted within the next week. Once it’s posted, if you search for my name, it’ll come up. Regardless, you are FAR from alone. Keep the faith! 🙂 Oh, also, writing for friends’ blogs is a GREAT way to get start building your reputation as a writer. It starts with the inner circle. Best of luck!

  6. Amy Mackin says:

    Great post! I am by nature a very private person too. Although I had been working on two novels for the better part of five years, I didn’t feel comfortable calling myself a “writer” until I was published by a national outlet. Even now when someone asks what I do, I respond with “I’m a writer, but that doesn’t pay the bills so I also work in the payroll department of a healthcare company.” Because I’m not making my primary living from writing, most people still view my efforts as a hobby, so I need to work more on that “fake it ’til you make it” attitude as well.

    • MM Finck says:

      Hi Amy,
      Boy, do I get what you’re saying! I’ve been there. You can say either one. So you have been published??? Regardless, I think you should try it. Scare yourself and answer – “novelist.” Then you can tell them the payroll thing if it comes up or you want to. I bet it won’t. It feels weird at first, but then its fun. I used to work in business. Even though I found my job satisfying and interesting and I worked at great places, people LOVE knowing a writer. It opens up conversation in so many more ways than numbers. (I was in numbers too.) 🙂 Best of luck finishing your novels! Two at once? That is something I haven’t tried yet. You are a rock star. Take care, Amy! KIT.

  7. Michelle Hastings says:

    Hi,am so pleased I sat down and read this article instead of filling the dishwasher. Would like you
    to know how extremely brave you were on your move,wow,am in complete awe of you.Have also taken everything you said on board and am feeling extra positive.Ps-I’m not a”writer”but thankyou all the same.

    • MM Finck says:

      Haha. In awe of me? You should see my smile over here. Thank you so much for your kind words. I love that I won out over the dishwasher! 🙂 Thank you so much for telling me that you enjoyed my article. It’s funny – a million people could read it, but I wouldn’t ever know that. That’s why I treasure the comments so much. Have a wonderful journey with whatever your non-writing dream is.

  8. Tai says:

    I was swayed by the first comment I got when I finished my short story. But he smiled and told me that I should be prepared to stand my ground when I get comments that makes me want to withdraw. But, thank God I took his advice and I’m almost done with my first real novel.

    • MM Finck says:

      Tai! That is HUGE. I remember when I finished my first novel. My husband came home with it bound and printed – nothing more than a copy shop job – and I swear that it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. 🙂 Heartfelt congratulations to you. If you can write one, you can write one hundred. Thank you so much for sharing your perseverance and triumph!!!

  9. Karen Ginther says:

    This is the first time I’ve ever responded in social media. It’s kinda scary. Your words moved me. I loved the mention of the baker who senses when the bread is done. I can relate. I don’t tell many people that I write, my husband is sworn to secrecy. When I am asked what I’ve been up too I say “not much.” People must think I’m very boring! I’ve finished a novel, have one great beta reader and am looking for more. Maybe I’ll ‘come out’ soon.

    Good luck,


    • MM Finck says:

      Karen, I’m honored that you chose my article with which to break into social media commenting. You did great! I completely understand where you are. How I told my closest friends that I had written my first novel began with an apology. 🙂 I am sure that they thought I was upset with them because I pulled away for so long. It takes deep, solitary focus for me to complete that first draft. Even now. Good luck with your ‘coming out’ and your work! KIT.


  10. Gill James says:

    Absolutely the right thing to do. Keep the vision. Move towards at a suitable pace – and that may include uncomfortable at times but not all the tim – and you get there.
    Well done you.

  11. Hey, this is a great post! I’ve always been open about my writing, because I felt it was the only thing that I was any good at. Now I realised that it’s not the case, but it is my passion. I’ve finished my first novel, edits and all and now I’m about to start the agent hunting process. I have a blog. I’ve not long had a writers website and just yesterday opened a writers Facebook page! It has been scary. The doubt comes up, especially considering I’m not published yet, but I believe that I will be.
    Thanks for this!
    Rachel x

  12. Oh, my gosh! I was the same way. Only told a few friends in secret until I had my first novel published. Had THREE out there before I “came out” to my book club!
    Thanks for the post. Glad to know I’m not the only one! 🙂

    • MM Finck says:

      Wow! 3! I’m so glad that you told them. Now they can support you! I wish I could have been there when you told them. I bet they were so excited for you. Congratulations! 🙂

  13. This is so true!!! I forced myself last month to start a 30-Day Challenge and a new women writers’ network, She Just Writes. I have been in hiding for years, and I know that I could not be the only one. The 30-Day Challenge was called “I Am A Writer” because I was mortified when stating my occupation in public. But since the challenge, I not only embrace my title, I love it and wonder what took me so long to uncover my truth.

    Articles like this will continue to help fellow writers emerge from seclusion.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • MM Finck says:

      Oh Nicole, that is wonderful! I’m so happy for you! I know exactly how you feel. Those programs sound wonderful. I will be looking those up! Thanks so much for your kind words about my article and for taking the time to comment. It means a lot.

  14. Excellent article. I’m a strong believer in “fake it ’til you make it” for as long as your working towards your goal. You’ll never get anywhere until you believe in yourself and take those first (sometimes terrifying!) steps. Cheers! -AZ

    • MM Finck says:

      Thank you so much, Alexandra. I agree with you completely. I admit that often I’m not sure if I do even believe in myself, but I take those steps anyway. I know what I want, and I’ll die trying, I guess. Action leads to belief for me sometimes. Do you know what I mean? I find it fascinating how each of us motivate ourselves to overcome adversity, inner and outer, until we succeed. The journey is where I find the most growth and joy, don’t you? Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  15. TrinaLynne says:

    This article was truly a smack in the face – not the hard disrespectful kind, but the “what have you been doing with your life” reality check. I can be so self conscious of my work that I hide what I am doing from friends and fans. Honestly, I had the misconception that this was something I had to figure out and no one could possibly be as unnecessarily scary.

    It’s good to know that I am not alone. Whew…

    I really enjoyed this article and have some good ideas on how to Fake It. Keep up the good work MM. By the way, digging the quote “Doneness smells different”.

    • MM Finck says:

      Your comment, Trina Lynne, delighted me! I’m so happy that my article touched you that way. Thanks so much for taking the time to tell me! You are absolutely not alone. There’s me, of course. But look too at all the comments below! There a lot of us fakers. 🙂 We’re good writers too.
      I love that you mentioned that line from FORGET WE MET. It’s one of my favorites too. I recently created a website wherein I described my novels. Check it out if you get a chance.
      Take care! Best wishes! Keep in touch.

  16. Light bulbs!! Thank you. I especially like the part about bringing people into the process and letting them share your excitement and root for you. I’ve never really done that publicly. I think I was too proud to let people witness my failures.

    • MM Finck says:

      “Light bulbs!!” I love that! I’m so glad. I know what you mean – bringing people in on it is scary. Scares the bejeezus out of me still. But it creates deeper fans and beleivers because they have been there with us. When we stand up and keep going, they do too. Everyone loves a success story. Everyone wants to be one. Let them live vicariously through you. At least that’s what I do. Frankly, I am so grateful for them. Their watchful eyes help me pull it together. Humiliation is my greatest pain – when I fail I fail publicly. It hurts and is so embarrassing. But that’s why you keep them involved in the successes too. You push through the pain more efficiently and healthfully because people are counting on you to keep going. Keep positive and a smile on your face. It’s good for both of us. Not to make you follow me or anything, but I wrote a post on this on my blog. Maybe you’d like it. No pressure. I won’t know either way. 🙂 Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I hope you keep in touch.

  17. Misha Herwin says:

    How you project yourself has a great impact on how people view you. If you present yourself as a writer then you are treated as one, which confirms your own view of yourself, however shaky that might be.

    After years of not admitting that writing was my passion, my addiction and what I did in all the time I could claw from the day job, I began to tell people that I was a writer. To my amazement they just accepted it as what I did.

    From then on in it’s been much easier to say what I do. What I still find really difficult however is to promote my books.

    • MM Finck says:

      “To my amazement they just accepted it as what I did.” Isn’t that so true?! You must be a good faker. 🙂 Congrats. Self-promotion is hard. The best advice I’ve gotten about it is to make it as personal as it can be. For example, instead of doing an email blast about a book signing, send individual emails. It takes longer but the results are better. Say, email a dozen and a half people personally and ask them to bring friends. I am always looking for insight on promotion and marketing too. This one stuck with me. I’m so happy for you that you have bookS to promote. That’s a huge thing. I hope you KIT. My contact info is at the bottom of the article. Good luck, Misha!

  18. Diane says:

    This really hit home for me. I have never answered “writer” when asked what I do. And, I wrote in secret for years! Only recently did I start a website to “put my writing out there” as so many tell us wanna-be’s to do. It was scary. I have never been published and may never be, but I am a writer, nonetheless. I love the support and encouragement I have found from other writers, it is such an amazing network. Thank you MM!

    • MM Finck says:

      Oh my gosh, Diane. You are more than welcome. Writing for WWWB has been an incredible experience because it has enabled me to connect to other writers, like you with your network. I believe it was Madeleine Albright who said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” I love that. My personal version is: “We’re stronger together than apart.” My husband believes that men appreciate my writing as well because I enjoy employing dark elements and male perspectives, but I think that’s just because he loves me. I write for women – both the writers and the readers. We are an amazing network. Have you joined a writers association yet? I encourage you to. It is sort of like being invited to a party of VIPs and being able to study them while lurking in the shadows. (Until you are ready to participate.) I’m proud of you for launching your website! What is the link? Best wishes! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

      • Diane says:

        Hi MM,
        Click on my name above and it will take you to my website!(what a cool tool)I would be so tickled if you took some time to check it out. Thank you for your reply,so thoughtful and personal!
        Best to you ~

        • MM Finck says:

          “Thoughtful” and “personal” are exactly the words I would use to describe your site! Really wonderful. Thanks for the invitation and the link. I am going to share your eharmony story with a friend of mine (widowed so woefully early). It would hearten her to hear it. She also is too wonderful to be alone forever. I enjoyed the mittens-kittens list too. 🙂

  19. Kate Hall says:

    We have to take our writing by the horns and project it with gusto. Nobody else will do it for you.
    I’ve just started to believe that and it is very empowering. Rejection and disappointment will undoubtedly be my best friends but I hope I will have the courage to keep going.

    • MM Finck says:

      Thank you, Kate, so much. I never would have believed that rejection could be my best friend, and maybe it isn’t, but it can be a very very good one, can’t it? The one that tells you the truth. The real, no holds barred, truth. There is not a rejection in my past that I regret. Not only did I find out what I’m really made of, but my work is so much better. I am so grateful for not having gone out into the world before now. You only get one chance to make your debut. I want every possible rejection (read: opportunity for improvement) first. You know? Disappointment and I are not friends. 🙂 In fact, I try to move right past her. It’s very important, I think, to find reasons to say: “I’m grateful for this situation. I skated. I am better than this. I am grateful for the opportunity to prove it.” Please have the courage to keep going. It is only those that do who make it. Let it be you. I want it to be you. Good luck! Keep in touch.

  20. Excellent ‘how to fake convincingly’ guidelines. I shall limber up today. Funnily the blogging part is, for me, much easier to admit than the book wielding AUTHOR. I am with Beatrix on the problem of ‘whisper…a poet’ specially when asked what sort of poetry? Maybe more anon…talking of anon I would much rather have published under Anon or Banksy2. I could have posted murals of my cover under airport approaches…

    • MM Finck says:

      Thank so much, Philippa! (Btw, you have a great name!). I like the image of you stealthily posting your cover art in airports and tunnels. Strong case for a pen name. 🙂

  21. Shanan says:

    I so identify with this post. Until recently, self-applying the word “blogger” would make me hang my head.

    For the longest time, I didn’t tell anyone I had started a blog on writing. It was small, it was my first, it was so new, I was still so green. What value is a blogger anyway? With these thoughts, I kept my new contribution to the world a secret.

    I’m a full-time business writer. I work with a small team of other writers at a large corporation. One day, a coworker found my writing blog, and I was horrified. It was new! I wasn’t ready! I hadn’t found my groove yet! I had only a handful of regular commenters and followers!

    I braced myself for a lukewarm, “Oh, that’s… cute. What a nice little website.”

    Instead, this coworker read my work. She really read it. She read archived posts. The About page. The Twitter feed. And best of all, she said she loved my writing, and totally got my sense of humor! As bloggers, we strive to build an audience and reach a lot of fellow writers through the magic of the Internet, but here was a fan of my blog, live and in person, telling me that the thing I’d spent so many secret 5ams and 11pms and lunch hours on was WORTH something. It was the most incredible boost of confidence I’ve ever felt.

    That one push “out the door,” so to speak, was what I needed to start OWNING my identity as a writer, as a blogger, as a PERSON WHO WRITES.

    Now that I have the foundation, I’m going to build on that momentum using the advice you’ve provided here, because it’s all too true that being a writer means respecting your own work and taking yourself seriously, above all else. And the positive feedback you get along the way helps, too.


    • MM Finck says:

      This is a wonderful story! You should have written my article. 🙂 I’m thrilled for you. I understand that emotional experience so well. Good luck with your blog. I’m definitely going to check it out. Novels are my bread and butter, but I blog a bit. I started it kind of kicking and screaming, but, as an experience, it has been nothing short of fantastic. It has fueled ongoing connections with people in a way that a novel never could. Have you found the same thing? It sounds like you have. If you get a minute, hop on over. I’ll do the same. We, writers, are stronger together, don’t you think? Take care, Shanan, and thanks so much for taking the time to tell your story.

  22. Beatriz says:

    Loved the article! If it is difficult admitting you’re a writer, try saying you’re a poet! People really are nonplussed.

    • MM Finck says:

      That is an interesting point. Have you found any tricks that work? I wish I could write poetry. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel right from me. But I do incorporate rhythm and meter in my writing that I learned from my favorite poets. My favorite pieces sound as good to my ears as they do in my head. I always shoot for that. I think you guys are the best of us. Good luck with your projects, Beatriz.

  23. You are so right. I very timidly had business cards made up that saud writer in tiny font, almost apologentically. I have since thrown those out and my new cards say Author in bug bold font. Makes me feel better just handing them out.
    In my other life I am a Realtor, and I can tell you the public can sense it if you are insecure in your profession and nobody wants to deal with you. My husband once said, walk fast with your head held high. You’ll fool everybody until you really know. He was right. Everyone repeat after me . i am an author. i am an author.

    • MM Finck says:

      That’s a great story. Recently a friend shared an article with me that listed traits of highly successful women. One was that highly successful women either remained single or had husbands who fully – I mean, fully – supported their wives. I believe the quote was attributed to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. It sounds like you have that too. How wonderful.

  24. Stacy says:

    Wonderful article. And applicable to others seeking to follow their calling–be it writing or otherwise. You always hit it out of the ball park!

  25. Kristina says:

    love it!

    • MM Finck says:

      Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment, Kristina. Knowing that my words resonate gives me my greatest joy. It takes a village to raise this writer.

  26. Ky Delaney says:

    I so needed to read this! I’ve been dipping my toe, but haven’t committed to being a writer. I feel inspired to take more risks and owning my writing!

    • MM Finck says:

      I’m so glad, Ky! I know exactly what you mean. Even now, I feel deeply timid before every piece I start. It does feel risky. I don’t know why. So what if what we write is bad? Trash it. Take whatever little part we did like and build from there. No one is over our shoulder. We couldn’t be safer. The truth is that it feels risky but it isn’t. We aren’t in control of much but we are in complete control of what we write. In fact, the rest of my life feels a lot more in control when I’m writing. I am simply a happier, more stable human being. I’m thrilled that something I wrote is helping you become who you want to be. You already are her. Good luck!

  27. Colleen says:

    Great article!

    • MM Finck says:

      Thank you so much! Thank you for taking the time to read it and comment. It completes the circle for me and does my heart good. Good luck with your own projects!

  28. Lesley Williams says:

    Glad I followed the link. I enjoyed reading your piece. It really resonated with me. I will look forward to your book getting published. Keep us posted?

    • MM Finck says:

      I’m glad you did too! I’m pleased that you liked it. I definitely will keep you posted on my projects. You too. Thank you so much for asking. Good luck with yours!

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